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  • 12 Jul 2019
    It is a known fact that the UK has seen a spike in youth violence, particularly knife crime, over the last couple of years. Sadly, the news has become all too familiar: another grinning picture of a lost kid, another grieving parent’s pleas for the violence to end, another youth worker discussing the impact of local government cuts, another politician with a soundbite playing to his or her agenda. Most of us, read these ‘by-numbers’ articles, feel a pang of sadness, anger or guilt – and then move on with our lives, much as we do when we hear about a famine or war in the global south. Sometimes however the reality of the situation is driven home a little harder. Last year a 16 year old was shot-dead one road from my house in Tulse Hill in South London. On this occasion it was impossible to ignore the deafening-silence of the neighbours and friends stood behind the police tape. Then, just a matter of days ago, my friend’s son, who is 15, was threatened at knife-point and interrogated about whether he had any gang affiliation. This happened just yards from his house - in broad day-light. My friend’s voice trembled as she told me that, what made this so hard was that this had happened in the very place that both she and her son had been brought up – the place they call home. Nowhere felt safe anymore. Like thousands of young people in London and across the UK, my friend’s son is now approaching adulthood in a state of fear and faces stark questions around how to remain safe in this environment. Of course, there is not single cause or single solution. The government, police and schools undoubtedly have huge roles to play, particularly when it comes to addressing the underling socio-economic issues at play. However, in many cases it is the people living and working in the affected communities who have the best understanding of the dynamics on the ground and therefore the best solutions for tackling these issues at the local level. At Localgiving we work with grassroots organisations across the UK who work tirelessly, to tackle youth and gang violence and its multiple causes. Many of these groups have been set up by people who have first-hand experience of these issues, some by parents of victims and some by former gang members themselves. These groups are embedded in their communities and are therefore, not only acutely aware of the specific dynamics of the situation in their area, but also find it far easier to gain access to, and the trust of those they aim to help. This is a particularly important factor, given that many of the communities most adversely affected by the uptick in youth violence have also experienced a break-down in trust with police and local authorities. The type and level of support offered by these grassroots groups varies considerably. Many services are tailored to the specific needs of the young people they work with and communities they work in. Some groups provide peer-to-peer support, some provide safe spaces for healing, some help secure safe, stable housing and provide their young people with training and education opportunities. One thing they all offer however is hope. Hope that there is a way out of the current cycle of violence and evidence of the tangible difference that people can make in their own communities – even when faced with the most painful and seemingly intractable social problems. Below are some of the amazing groups on Localgiving who work to tackle youth violence and its causes.  Jags Foundation (Croyden, London) Real Action (Kensington, London) St. Matthews Project (Lambeth, London) Aik Saath - Together As One (Slough) The New Cross Gate Trust – “carrying knives costs lives” campaign (London) Safe (Oxford) Newark Youth London (Newark London) Prospex (Islington, London) Copenhagen Youth Project (Islington, London) Lambeth Action for Youth (Lambeth, London) C2C Social Action (Northampton) Fitzrovia Youth In Action (Camden, London) Fast Project (Battersea, London) Sports4Health CIC (London) The Reasons Why Foundation (London) The Jan Trust (Haringay, London)
    16170 Posted by Lewis Garland
  • 16 Oct 2018
    Your charity does amazing things. You know this, we know this – but do your potential donors or volunteers know this? While it is true that we live in an increasingly visual world, it is important not to underestimate the enduring power of persuasive writing. It (literally) pays to spend time on crafting your copy. Your browser does not support the video tag. In this blog I give six essential copywriting tips to help you raise awareness and bring in funding for your cause. Know your audience Before you put digit to key, the most important question should always be ‘who am I writing for and why?’ We all care about different causes. In most cases our interests are dictated by our characteristics and life experiences. Think carefully about what demographic you are writing for and how best to engage, gain the trust and motivate this audience. Harness the power of human stories Mastering the art of emotional engagement is vital for any copywriter, none more so than for those of us working with and for charities. One of the most effective ways to do this is through focussing on human stories.  Try to find a simple, memorable story that encapsulates the work that your organisation does and the impact it makes (to a charity marketer this should be the holy grail). Whenever possible, try to include direct quotes from your beneficiaries or clients. This not only makes your copy more emotionally engaging but also helps to build trust with your audience. Choose your stats wisely While an excessive use of numbers may be a turn-off, carefully chosen and positioned statistics can both hook readers in and motivate them to act. Statistics can be used both to show your charity fully understands an issue and to succinctly convey the impact of your own work.   Keep it simple When we are passionate about a cause, it is tempting to tell people everything about the need for our work and the impact we make.  Equally, for lovers of words, it may be frustrating to be told to tone down your language. However, with attention getting shorter, complex arguments and florid prose are better kept for elsewhere. Ask yourself what your reader really needs to know and be ruthless with the rest. Spend time on your subject line We’ve all done it. Worked for hours honing our perfect piece of copy and then quickly cobbled together a subject line or title. However, as the tabloids have proven year on year out, a bold, controversial or catchy headline can make a huge difference. Infact, this is why professional headline writers exist! A good starting point when writing title or headline is to follow the ‘4 R’s’: Urgent, Unique, Useful, and Ultra-specific. Time and tailor your ask Think of each paragraph you write as part of your reader’s  journey, a journey that leads to your call to action. Charities too often describe their groups’ activities and then tag on a quick, loosely related call-to-action at the end. If we want people to donate, volunteer their time, or share our message, you need to consider when the most effective time will be to ask for their support (i.e. at what point your reader will be most motivated to act). Sometimes, this may be at the start to instill a sense of urgency; other times it will come towards the end after having made a robust argument for your cause. And remember, the call-to-action itself should be as  simple, persuasive and specific as possible. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Writing great copy will always be as much about magic as maths. However, following these six tips will go a long way to helping you attract the supporters, donors or fundraisers you need!    Was this blog helpful? Why not check out the following blogs too: 5 of the best free design tools to help your charity shine 3 Charities To Have On Your Radar For Social Media Inspiration
    10257 Posted by Lewis Garland
  • 16 Oct 2019
    Most people who work in the charity sector do so because, in some way or another, they want to make the world a little better. For those of us involved in marketing, our role is to engage people with our cause and persuade them to take action (donating, volunteering, building barricades etc). So far,  so simple. The problem is that the actions we take in achieving our goals are not neutral – no action ever is. Indeed, in some cases our actions have negative repercussions that can outweigh the good they are intended to achieve. To state ‘actions have consequences’ is not exactly ground breaking.  However, in recent years numerous charity scandals have come about specifically because charity marketers and fundraisers have become so blindly goal-orientated that they have entirely neglected to take into account the consequences of their actions. While very few charities are involved in actively (or knowingly) unethical behaviours, all of us must think more carefully about the potential wider impact of our marketing strategy and output.   If we are serious when we use the phrase “what I love about what I do is the knowledge that I am making a positive difference”, then we need to be consistently weighing up whether our intended ends justify our means. Of course, this is not a simple question and will rarely have simple answers. For example, if a charity successfully persuades donors to give £2 per month by using imagery that perpetuates “white saviour” myths, is this justified? My immediate response would be that the wider negative impact of this type of campaign does not justify the use of this imagery.  However, the uncomfortable truth is that these images are emotionally potent and therefore highly effective when it comes to persuading people to donate.   Sadly, this means that marketers who choose not to use such imagery are often playing catch-up.  As are those who take the time to ensure their images have alt-text so they are accessible to visually impaired people. As are those who opt against using aggressive sales techniques. Striking a balance between hitting targets and maintaining an ethical marketing strategy comes with serious challenges.  The reality is that, taking a more ethical route will often be more time-consuming, more resource sapping and will require far more creativity. Given these challenges, it would be significantly easier for marketing professionals to take these risks if they have the support and understanding of their senior management and board. Indeed, in an ideal world, this approach should be adopted into the wider culture and values of the organisation as a whole. In some cases  achieving this support will be easier than others.  However, given the arguments, I believe that the majority of board members and senior managers will be receptive because ultimately they are (one hopes) in involved in the voluntary sector for exactly the same reason as you and I. For more on ethical marketing strategy: People Before Stories: Working With Beneficiaries' Narratives 3 tips for building an ethical fundraising strategy
    10169 Posted by Lewis Garland
  • 09 Sep 2019
    The nights are drawing in, the leaves are colouring, the air is beginning to cool, children are yelling on their way to school, advisers are skulking in Westminster Hall, and it turns out your team’s big summer signing isn’t the new Messi after all. Autumn is officially here! Each season comes with its own set of fundraising opportunities. In this blog we highlight a few events for you to hang your fundraising hat on this Autumn. 22nd September (week of) - Harvest Festival This ancient festival (coinciding with the Harvest moon, the full moon closest to the autumn equinox) celebrates the end of the harvest season. Traditionally linked with charity, particularly sharing food, this is a great opportunity for poverty focussed charities and community groups to highlight their vital work. 27th October - Diwali Diwali, the 5 day Hindu festival of lights celebrates both Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and the triumph of good over evil (I’m sure we can find a fundraising angle there). This festival, celebrated by 1 billion people worldwide including Jains, Sikhs and Newar Buddhists as well as Hindus, gives ample opportunity for some South Asian themed fundraising fun – from food and fireworks nights to lantern making workshop. 31st October - Halloween  When the spirits rise with ghastly cries, and the maggots crawl from hollow eyes, and the hairy-legged spiders creep and the reaper comes to help you sleep… Halloween provides an excellent opportunity to hit those fundraising ghouls! This year the 31st is also (the latest) Brexit day - draw connections as you wish. Read our Halloween blog for some ideas to help you make a little money from the night of the macabre 2nd November - Day of the Dead Día de Muertos, a Mexican tradition celebrating departed ancestors, gets bigger and bigger each year here in the UK. Why not throw a Day of the Dead fundraising party – complete with  face-paints, sugar-skulls, decoration, libations, salsa rhythms and tasty tostadas? 5th November – Bonfire Night Remember, remember the 5th of November ...  Who doesn’t love wrapping up warm, writing your name (as if you write anything else) in the cool air with a sparkler, and watching the night sky come alive with colour? A stall selling hot food and drinks and marshmallow sticks would go down a treat! I hope these ideas give you some food for thought. Let us know about your group's autumn fundraising plans and, as ever, we’ll be happy to share your fundraising events and feats in our blog, newsletter and across our social media channels. 
    8385 Posted by Lewis Garland
Tips & guides 4,497 views Aug 25, 2015
What are Social Impact Bonds and how can we get involved?

The likelihood is that you have heard of Social Impact Bonds (SIBS) at some time over the last couple of years. Some hail SIBs as an innovative, even revolutionary way to bring together the distinct expertise of different sectors - improving government efficiency while better addressing complex social issues. Others are more cautious, highlighting the potential risks of giving financial incentives to investors for achieving public goods. As is often the case with these things, the majority of us quickly become mired in jargon and leave it for later.

The reality is that, wherever you stand, SIBS are a rapidly growing source of funding for not-for-profits. For this reason we felt it would be useful for you to have an outline of SIBs, enabling you (small, local charities and community groups) to decide whether, and if so how, you may be able to participate.

What exactly are Social Impact Bonds?

Social Impact Bonds are Pay-by-Performance contracts in which the financial risks (and potential profits) lie entirely with private investors, rather than with the government or civil society.

A private investor initially pays for a commissioned project (Commissioners are public sector organisation’s such as local authorities or government departments). The investor then works alongside their chosen partner civil society organisations to achieve specific, measurable outcomes that are agreed upon at the start of the bond.

The investors are only repaid by the commissioner if the outcomes are attained. If the agreed outcomes are achieved the investors are repaid by the commissioner and are also given a return for the financial risks they took.

 



What is the idea behind SIBS?

The idea is to bring in private investment to tackle complex and expensive social challenges. The theory is that well-funded early intervention will prevent greater long-term problems and will, ultimately, reduce the public sector’s costs. For example, the first ever SIB, The Peterborough Social Impact Bond, was intended to reduce reoffending. Another ongoing SIB commissioned by Manchester Council is aimed at supporting young people transitioning between residential care to foster care (young people in Residential Care are statistically more likely to have low school attendance, substance abuse problems,  enter the criminal justice system and  become NEET- Not in Education, Employment or Training)

Accountability and transparency - SIBs have clearly defined outcomes that must be achieved if investors are to ensure a return on their investment. Consequently, it is in the interests of all parties to ensure that the impact of the project is accurately monitored and evaluated. In the long term, this would mean a shift towards a more evidence based approach to government spending.

How do SIBS work in practice?

SIBS are still in their infancy and as a result there are relatively few case studies to draw upon. Moreover, those that do exist differ considerably in structure and practice.  The most frequently cited case study is the Peterborough Pilot.

  • The Peterborough SIB, launched in March 2010, was aimed at reducing reoffending by prisoners released from Peterborough prison. Re-offending is an area where prevention has been proven to save the taxpayer money.

  • The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) worked in collaboration with 17 investors - mostly charitable trusts and foundations. As this was a “proof of concept” pilot,  this contract was not put out for competitive tender. However, competitive tendering is expected to become the norm for SIBs.  

  • Service providers, together known as the One Service included: St Giles Trust; Ormiston Children and Families Trust (Ormiston); SOVA; YMCA, Peterborough and Fenland Mind (Mind)

  • The contract agreed that the MOJ would make payments to investors if re-offending was reduced by at least 7.5%.  The greater the drop in reoffending beyond this threshold, the more the investors would receive

  • The SIB offered support to 3,000 prisoners both inside prison and after release. The One Service offered a range of support including help with accommodation, low-level mental health needs and training and employment opportunities.

  • In August 2014 the results for the first group of 1,000 prisoners on the Peterborough  SIB were announced - these showed an 8.4% reduction in reconviction rates relative to the national baseline.

  • Peterborough SIB was cut short due after the MoJ announced they would be restructuring the probation service in April 2014.

Are small/local charities  able to become service providers in Social Impact bonds?

Unlike other pay-by-performance contracts, small charities are more likely to be able to participate in SIBS because the financial risk does not lie with them but with the investor. The government have been keen to highlight this point, claiming that SIBs enable service providers with a ‘deep understanding of the target group that they are trying to support and expertise in the types of intervention that are effective’ but that ‘lack both working capital and evaluation expertise’ to participate in interventions.

Strictly speaking, any charity or social enterprise with a proven track record of delivering high social impact  is eligible to become a service provider - plenty of small, local charities meet this definition. However, since investors are carrying the initial financial burden, they are unlikely to be willing to take big risks when choosing which civil society organisations to work with. In practice, most service providers have been working with recognised,  medium to large, charities. Service providers involved in SIBS at present include: Action for children, Thames Reach, St Mungo’s and YMCA. For smaller charities considering participating in a SIB, one potential option would be to work collaboratively with a larger, lead charity.

Flexibility, Monitoring and Evaluation

One key point for smaller charities to consider when looking at whether they want to become involved in SIBs is whether they have (or see themselves as being able to gain) the capacity for wide scale data-collection and the flexibility to change their methods if goals are not being met.

In order for investors to ensure a return on their investment they must provide solid evidence that they have achieved their outcomes. This involves rigorously monitoring and evaluating their programmes. A lot of the feedback  from charities involved in SIBS so far has directly referenced the high volume of data-collection required. For example, Teens and Toddlers, who have recently been supported by a SIB to deliver an educational and social training programme for 14-15 year olds in Manchester, have stated:

“We had to be ready for the data demands that come weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly…This can be tough. I report monthly to our board of investors. Every bit of data is reported on and scrutinised, and although our investors are a great bunch, I still get a tad nervous. A bit like first night nerves on a monthly basis!

Whilst monitoring and evaluation demands are particularly high for SIBS, in truth this is reflective of a general trend towards demanding accountability for funds. For some charities, involvement with a SIB may give them the impetus and resources to better survive in this new era of funding conditionality.

Publicity

As SIBS are still a relatively new initiative they continue to attract a comparatively high level of media attention. If involved in a SIB, this attention may be used to increase public awareness of your charity and cause, potentially driving up demand for services and even bringing in opportunities for further investment. Teens and Toddlers claimed that they gained “fantastic media coverage” that has “ensured (their) name is recognised much more widely”. Of course, increased attention will always come with reputational risks as well as rewards.

Can charities propose SIBS themselves?

Theoretically anyone, be it a commissioner, investor, politician or service provider can propose a SIB. There is nothing preventing charities and community organisations developing SIB proposals. In fact, in many cases local charities are likely to have the best understanding of both the needs of their communities and the type of intervention that may be required to address them.

However, the difficulty for smaller charities, with limited resources –  or, importantly, contacts – may come in approaching other actors (potential commissioners and investors) about implementation. For smaller charities interested in developing a SIB proposal, the best option would almost certainly be to work in partnership with other potential service providers and sound-out potential investors (using the contacts they have in businesses, trusts or foundations)as early as possible.

To find out more about Social Impact Bonds you can visit: